Autobiography of P. P. Pratt
Welcome to Episode 39 of the NMP, the serial Mormon history podcast. Today is Thursday Sept 29, my name is Bryce Blankenagel and thank you for joining me.
Today we return to our historical timeline. We’re sitting near the end of 1837 and things have never been more challenging in Mormon history before this point. Let’s do a quick recap of the last historical timeline episode before we jump into the meat of this week’s episode.
To start off the last episode, we talked about the panic of 1837 and how it affected Mormon history. The total portfolio value of the Kirtland Safety Society Anti-Bank-ing Company was nearly $4 million, backed by barely more than $20k in actual money. Jo and Rigdon were running the church into the ground as the world-wide economy was amidst collapse and they were dragging everybody in the church down with them. Many prominent leaders, however, wouldn’t go down without a fight. Orson Brain-power Pratt and his brother P-Cubed Parley Parker Pratt, along with Sylvester Smith, Professor Bill E. McLellin, and others were apostates and preaching against Jo and Rigdon to congregations. Ollie Cowdung Oliver Cowdery was nearing apostate status, while Not-So-Smarty-Marty Harris was about to leave. D-Day David and John Goebbels Whitmer were both apostates running the Missouri church against the will of Jo and Rigdon in Kirtland. The leadership was fracturing and melting down at an unprecedented level all while members of the 11 witnesses were preaching against Jo and Rigdon’s best interests. It’s hard to imagine that Jo and the church will emerge victorious on the other side of 1838, and I would make an argument that they didn’t breech this fog of war until 1840 or 41, but the exciting thing is, we have so much to cover until we can officially declare Jo victorious over this dissent, so let’s just dive in. If you need a better refresher than that, listen to Episode 38 and come back, there was just too much that happened for us to cover in this milk segment of today’s show.
That being said, let’s dive into the meat for today and get our proper fill of the rest of 1837. Hopefully by the end of this episode we’ll be discussing the beginnings of the Missouri-Mormon war that’s been building since the establishment of Independence as Zion in 1831.
Last episode, P-Cubed Parley Parker Pratt preached on the stand for 2 hours about how the church had gone astray in June of 1837. Well, we know that P-Cubed was a leader in the church in SLC and was subsequently killed in 1857 because of his polygamy, which eventually led to the Mountain Meadows Massacre. P-Cubed reconciled his problems with the church and this is his entry from his own autobiography which is hosted on boap.org. The link for it will be in the show notes, it’s really one of the best autobiographies we have of this time.
“About this time, after I had returned from Canada, there were jarrings and discords in the Church at Kirtland, and many fell away and became enemies and apostates [apostasy]. There were also envyings, lyings, strifes and divisions, which caused much trouble and sorrow. By such spirits I was also accused, misrepresented and abused. And at one time, I also was overcome by the same spirit in a great measure, and it seemed as if the very powers of darkness which war against the Saints were let loose upon me. But the Lord knew my faith, my zeal, my integrity of purpose, and he gave me the victory.
I went to brother Joseph Smith in tears, and, with a broken heart and contrite spirit, confessed wherein I had erred in spirit, murmured, or done or said amiss. He frankly forgave me, prayed for me and blessed me. Thus, by experience, I learned more fully to discern and to contrast the two spirits, and to resist the one and cleave to the other. And, being tempted in all points, even as others, I learned how to bear with, and excuse, and succor those who are tempted.
Late in July I arrived in the City of New York, on a mission, took lodgings, and commenced to preach and write. My first production in that city was a book of upwards of two hundred pages, entitled the "Voice of Warning." The first edition of this work consisted of four thousand copies; it has since been published and re-published in America and Europe, till some forty or fifty thousand copies have not been sufficient to supply the demand. Thousands date their conversion to the fullness of the gospel to the reading of that book.”
This book that P-Cubed wrote, “Voice of Warning,” is a frequently cited manual for missionaries even today. Pratt was a prolific and intelligent writer, a trait which must have run in the family because his brother, Orson has the nickname of Orson Brain-Power Pratt for being an amazing scientific lecturer and engineer. P-Cubed wrote this “Voice of Warning” treatise which helped distribute the evolving Mormonism to missions in the New England area and overseas to actual England.
It’s worth pointing out that dissent was happening everywhere, it wasn’t just in Kirtland or Far West. In mid-September of 1837, a man named Snider left the church in England, burning 200 copies of the Book of Mormon as he left. A person doesn’t burn a book unless they are really angry about something, so you can imagine that this Snider guy was one of the more disenchanted members of the church during this time of frequent defection. At the same time that Snider burned these 200 Books of Mormon, P-Cubed released his “Voice of Warning,” furthering the persecution narrative of people in the church that apostatize and want to see the church burn along with every copy of the BoM.
On September 4th 1837, a church conference was held during which Jo chastised various leaders of the church. This chastisement also accompanied not sustaining the people as members of the quorum of twelve apostles. This is something that’s taken very seriously in the church, especially today. If Thomas Monson, today’s prophet, were to stand up in conference and say that some of the quorum weren’t sustained in their calling, it would be an epic paradigm shift in the current perception of unity in church leadership.
When Jo didn’t sustain these members as faithful leaders in the church, it marked the same paradigm shift in unity. Where some people perceived unity among Jo and friends before, the social pressures building up had finally taken their toll and expressed the corrosion in church unity that had been so long chipping away at Jo and Rigdon’s foundation.
Of the leaders that were chastised on September 4th, 3 of them, namely Luke and Leadfoot Lyman Johnson, as well as John F. Boynton made a confession to the church and retained their apostleship. This was one very small reconciliation in a time of infinite strife and disagreement in the church, it wouldn’t last long.
On September 10, Jo and his little brother crazy Willy Smith, along with Hingepin Rigdon and possibly some others left for Far West, Missouri to deal with the dissent that was happening out there. They were on a damage control mission to reign in the terrible two brothers D-Day David and John Goebbels Whitmer. The Whitmers were essentially running their own church anathema to the Kirtland church and personal action was needed on the part of Jo to respond to this insurrection.
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